Copyright S. Bradley Stoner
I was sitting on my tractor. My supercharged, Johnny Impala, zebra striped, super mowing machine with the rear bagger. I was humming right along, planing my lawn to near putting green perfection. I was intent on the sparse sprigs of buffalo grass immediately ahead... blissfully ignorant of all else. My Johnny I. leaned heavily. A thunderous voice scared me out of my wits. "HAVE YEW HEARD-uh THE KNOCKIN-uh!" My Johnny swerved to the left, dug three elongated divots, trimmed the hedge, made a loop through the flower garden, and smacked into the yellow pine.
When I came to, I saw Harold sprawled near the petunia bed, with a confused look on his face. I looked at my Johnny. The crash had knocked the supercharger off my Biggs and Hooter engine. The transwobbler was tangled up in the fasthappy. And one of the hyperwhacker blades was embedded a full six inches in the pine. That Johnny had cost me three features, eighteen fillers, two short stories, and a financial report. I was ready to give Harold a graphic demonstration of vigilante justice.
Harold, however, had recovered by this time. And, my eyes had started to clear up. There was something different about Harold. He peered from behind heavy, horn-rimmed glasses. He wore a dark suit with a religious emblem on the lapel. I didn't know Harold owned a dark suit, far less a religious emblem. "All right, Harold," I said, "what's going on?"
Harold approached somberly. "Ah am sorry, brother Brad," declared. "Trooly sorry. Ah did-uh not realize that mah message-uh would-uh so distrub-uh yew."
The crash must have done something to Harold. "Where'd you get that southern accent?" I asked.
It must have done in his ears too. He didn't answer me. " Ah merely wee-ished-uh to bring-uh yew the news!" he continued. "HAVE-uh YEW HEARD-uh THE NEWS-uh?!" It must have hurt his breathing. what with all the "-uhs" at the ends of his words. "Ah HAVE-uh FOUND-uh MAH MISSION-uh! THE PATH-uh IS CLEAH-uh!
I couldn't believe I was witnessing this. I couldn't believe Harold could believe I was witnessing whatever it was I was witnessing. I shook my head. Maybe I wasn't conscious yet. "Ah have the WORD-uh raht here in mah HAND-uh!" He was really getting into it now.
"Oh Lordy," I said with a groan.
"Then YEW have HEARD-uh!" he exclaimed triumphantly. Ah HEARD-uh His knockin', and-uh Ah answered the call-uh. All YEW have to do-uh is OPEN THE DOOR-uh and YEW will see the LIGHT-uh! Ah heard-uh about FUND-uh-RAISERS... Ah heard-uh about EIGHT HUNDRED NUMBERS-uh... Ah heard-uh about LOVE-uh gifts... Ah heard-uh about video cassettes-uh with INSPIRATIONAL messages-uh... AH HEARD-uh ABOUT DONATIONS-uh!"
Harold paused to rearrange his glasses often. I realized why. Harold has twenty-twenty vision. I had a headache. Harold's acquired accent and booming voice weren't helping it.
"Ah tell yew, AH FOUND-uh IT!"
I looked at him angrily. "Maybe you ought to give it back to whomever lost it," I said.
He looked at me serenely and piously. "Ah understand-uh," he said sweetly, "and Ah forgive yew. This is about forgiveness... and love. Ah heard-uh the knockin' and Ah answered. DO YEW KNOW-uh WHAT THAT-uh KNOCKIN' WAS?"
I scanned the books, the box of inspirational cards, the video cassette tapes, and donation forms he had produced miraculously from within the many and deep pockets of his coat. "Opportunity?" I asked.